Orca Month Proclaimed by Governor Inslee

Learn about Orcas at Orca Network Workshop June 18.

This June, Orca Network and our partner organizations with the Orca Salmon Alliance are celebrating the 10th annual Orca Awareness Month, with a proclamation from Governor Jay Inslee (see proclamation at www.OrcaMonth.com).

Governor Inslee recently sent this statement about Orca Month:

“I’d like to congratulate the Orca Network on this, the 10th anniversary of Orca Month. During that time, your organization has played a key role in monitoring these iconic animals, advocating for their protection educating the public about their importance to the Pacific Northwest.

“There many reasons why we celebrate orcas, the state’s official marine mammal. They are intelligent, social, and simply awe-inspiring in a way that few can deny.

“When I first talked to the Orca Network back in the early 1990s, the southern resident population was on the upswing – reaching a high of 98 animals in 1995. But by 2001, the pods’ numbers dropped to around 80 animals, corresponding with a period of poor ocean conditions for chinook salmon, their primary prey. The good news is that our orca population hasn’t declined any further since then. The bad news is that it has fallen far short of the 2.3 percent annual growth rate set for delisting under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission periodically reviews the status of species listed for state protection.

As you are likely aware, the commission will soon consider a recommendation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to continue state protection for our killer whales. I know we are in agreement that protection should continue.”

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission did vote last week to continue state protection for the endangered Southern Resident orcas, and awareness of this fragile population of orcas grows as Orca Month this year is being proclaimed in the state of Oregon and the province of British Columbia, and at Sunday’s Orca month Kickoff celebration, Congressman Denny Heck announced the introduction of a bill to make Orca Month National.

Orca Network is sponsoring a new Orca Month Workshop, Orcas In Our Midst, being held June 18th at the Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley, Whidbey Island, from 10a.m. – 4:30 p.m. This workshop focuses on the Southern Resident orcas and the salmon that are so critical to their survival. Learn about the past and future of the Center for Whale Research from Ken Balcomb and Deborah Giles. Ken Balcomb began researching the Southern residents 40 years ago, and the Center for Whale Research has collected valuable data on this community of orcas and have observed first hand the changes they are going through as once plentiful salmon are disappearing.

Michael O’Leary from the National Wildlife Federation, will talk about salmon of the Salish Sea, and Filmmaker Florian Graner of SeaLife Productions will share his amazing filming of orcas. Rosie Cayou of the Samish Nation will share the importance of orcas to her ancesters and to her family, and Howard Garrett of Orca Network will talk about the work being done to bring back the last remaining captive Southern resident orca, Lolita/Tokitae at the Miami Seaquarium, back to Washington waters.

Cost of the workshop is $35, or $25 Students/Seniors, with optional lunch for $10.

More information and registration link is at www.OrcaNetwork.org, and more information about Orca Month is at www.OrcaMonth.com.